A World Without the Death Penalty – IX Congress of the Ministers of Justice

By Federica Merenda, on 29 February 2016

A Congress that brings together both abolitionist and retentionist countries

In the words of Marco Impagliazzo, President of the Sant’Egidio Community, the Congress was an occasion to “relay the call of Pope Francis for a moratorium on the death penalty”; a spirit of dialogue and cooperation animated the Congress in Rome which constituted an opportunity to celebrate the most recent achievements in the fight against the death penalty, to share good practices but more importantly  to offer support and legal assistance to the countries where the death penalty is still a possibility but who are willing to engage on the path towards the suspension of the executions or the total abolition of capital punishment.
In this sense, Honourable Mnangagwa, the Vice-President and Minister of Justice of Zimbabwe, a retentionist country that joined the Congress, stated that “at the opportune time, surely we will not hesitate to expunge capital punishment from our laws” and hopes have been raised also for Sierra Leone, whose Minister of Justice Kamara announced that the Constitutional Review Committee is considering, among other issues, even the abolition of capital punishment.

“No justice without life” in times of terrorism

Especially in a time when a “culture of death”, that convinces individuals to be happy to die when this sacrifice provokes the death of enemies, is being spread by terrorist organizations all over the world, a “culture of life” must be strongly reaffirmed.
As noted by Honourable Marazziti, the temptation to fight death with death is a strong one and we have witnessed how even some Western democracies have indulged in it. Making countries who have a tradition of respect of human rights and the rule of law surrender to this temptation is precisely what terrorism wants to achieve.
The extensive use of the death penalty for terrorism related offences – that often do not constitute the ‘most serious crimes’, as required by international law for capital punishment to be tolerated in view of total abolition – and the resumption of executions justified under anti-terrorism laws in countries with an established moratorium make terrorism and counterterrorism a most relevant issue to explore in the context of the death penalty abolition campaign.

The 2016 World Day Against the Death Penalty, on 10 October this year will thus focus on the death penalty for terrorism, its slogan being “Execution is a terrorist’s tool. Stop the cycle of violence”.

On the page of the website of the Community of Sant’Egidio devoted to the event, videos of the Congress and transcripts of the speeches can be found: http://www.santegidio.org/pageID/3/langID/it/itemID/15512/Un-mondo-senza-pena-di-morte-una-battaglia-per-l-umanit%C3%A0-il-IX-Congresso-dei-Ministri-della-Giustizia.html